Program Management: Comparison between MSP® (AXELOS) and PgMP® (PMI)
Reminder of the characteristics of Program versus Project
The Project Manager, certified PMP®, PRINCE2®, or others
- Is responsible for individual projects
- Is responsible for the success of a project
- Manages the project according to the triple constraint: objectives (scope), costs, and time
The Program Manager, certified PgMP®, MSP®, or others
- Manages a group of projects because there is benefit and control to the organization by managing them together
- Works to ensure the ultimate success of the program
- Demonstrates sufficient expertise and knowledge to make decisions that align the program with strategic goals
- Define and initialize projects by assigning and overseeing project managers who will manage them
My journey in the world of banking business transformation
I have been engaged in the world of change management since the late 1980s. Initially I worked in Paris at Crédit Lyonnais in La Défense and then quickly moved to Switzerland in 1987. My focus was in the banking world and particularly that of Private Banking. After a few years as a Business Analyst, I began coordinating multiple tasks of teams, projects and programs. In addition to these banking and coordination skills, I began to participate in banking platform implementation and transformation programs. These were very often too ambitious and therefore risky. Through this journey, I experienced failures and I learned a lot both from a human and a professional point of view. I was able to motivate teams to deliver in order to meet the organization’s strategic objectives.
My journey in the world of PMI® certifications (American)
I realized the vital importance of my own consistent and continual training, to continually improve my own performance and to enrich my interactions with people coming from different environments, whether it be culturally or professionally. Keeping my passion for learning and growth was key. A key goal was to improve my skills in English. Because I am a person who enjoys networking, my encounters naturally charted my way. Luigi Ribon and Alexander Matthey put my foot in the stirrup of PMI in 2000, and I am thankful to them. This ride led me to a PMP® certification, painstakingly obtained in 2005. It came to sanction 20 years of project experience, and I learned a lot – too bad I did not do it sooner. Then, in 2008, I started my training to obtain the PgMP® (program management) as I had been a key player in two major programs of business transformation in 2000 and 2005. I thank my boss at the time, Sébastien Bouchet, for having endorsed this training. The journey was long and painful, but it was rewarding. Ardi Ghorashy and Dr Ginger Levin were my two coaches, both well-known and active members of PMI. This allowed me to go to the next level and better understand program management. This allowed me to better support and lead business transformation. After this, I completed additional certifications with other coaches and mentors, Beth Ouellette is one of them: Business Analysis (key for successful business transformation), Agility, Risk management… All of these distinctions lead me to receive from some facetious friends the title of « Russian General of the PMI®« , … But some of them are even worse, isn’t it Olivier Lazar? 😊
My journey in the world of certifications AXELOS (Anglo-Saxon)
In 2016, I started working with Daylight Consulting in Paris, where a childhood friend, François Delignette, works. By the way, I reconnected with him thanks to PMI®, networking, networking…. I was leaving a large English bank, a very mature organization in terms of methodology and using a home-made transformation method, both inspired by the PMI® and AXELOS standards. Daylight’s boss, Fadi El Gemayel, convinced me to prepare the MSP® certification that I did not yet have because it was required to ensure client advisory mandate. Admittedly, at first I was reluctant and a little annoyed as I already had the PgMP® to highlight my skills from a Program Management point of view. I can only thank Fadi who almost obliged me to obtain this certification. I appreciated the approach so much that I quickly passed the PRINCE2® certification for project management, also based on the concept of Business Case.
What did MSP® (Managing Successful Programs) bring to me?
A method that is simple and structured at the same time, and an excellent guide for setting up and executing programs. Everything is based on the business case and the expected benefits to achieve the organization’s strategy. It is kind of a simple canvas to be adapted to the size and complexity of the organization and program. There is a clear definition of essential roles such as Sponsor and Business Change Manager. Then, there is a requirement to define the Target Operational Model in order to give a clear direction and to better structure the delivery of the benefits expected by the program. Pragmatic advice is provided to ensure the creation of an effective PMO (Program Management Office). Together, these build an effective framework in which artifacts of the PMI method can be inserted, such as documents or models to complete the whole approach.
What is the added value of MSP® in supporting business transformation?
MSP® (Managing Successful Programs) defines program management as « the act of organizing, directing and deploying in a coordinated manner a project or project and transformation activities (the program), for achieve results and profits of strategic importance for the company. »
This program vision allows:
- to align deliverables with the organization’s strategy
- to well prepare the organization for the implementation of the benefits
- to manage all aspects of the transformation without disrupting day-to-day operations.
The Target Operational Model is key before starting the transformation!
The Target Operating Model (or blueprint) describes the key information required to establish the design and deliverables to constitute the target system:
- The Current state: how the organization is currently working.
- The Future state: how will the organization work when the program is completed?
The Target Operational Model is composed of four pieces of information according to the POTI model:
- Process – how the organization provides the products and services,
- Organization – the people, the structure, the capabilities used to deliver the products and services,
- Technology – Technology, tools, buildings that support the operations
- Information – the knowledge, information daily used to execute the operations.
The clarity of the target allows to better structure the program to deliver the benefits that will support the strategic goals of the organization.
Quick comparison of the two certifications (MSP® AXELOS and PgMP® PMI)
- One week course to prepare « Foundation » and « Professional »,
- Relatively easy to obtain if you have read the guide and if you have experience in program management,
- Moderate investment (cost and time),
- Open book exam, based on business cases,
- Does not guarantee the employer to recruit a program management expert,
- Provides the certified a pragmatic framework easy to set up in an organization,
- No development of the professional network, other than the meeting of people attending the face-to-face course.
One week course to prepare the certification. It’s just a prerequisite that will have to be supplemented by a considerable personal investment,
- Demonstrate experience in program management by documenting concrete cases that will be reviewed and sometimes audited (when I passed the exam in 2010 all were audited): the persons indicated as being able to attest to the truth of the facts will then be contacted,
- Significant investment (cost and time),
- Exam of 4h00 without consulting the training materials,
- Guarantees the employer to recruit a program management expert (many or all applications are audited and the references given must attest to the honor of the veracity of the cited experiences),
- Provides the certifier with models and a good understanding of the benefits of program management,
- Opening to the PMI® network, which links project and program management professionals with locally organized events and online resource sharing.
I advise you to prepare both certifications, because they are very complementary to each other.
If you are short in time and want to optimize your investment, I advise you to target MSP because a quick preparation allows you to obtain key pragmatic and concrete elements for the implementation of the program management concepts.
“PMI,” “PMP,” “PgMP,” and “Project Management Institute” are registered marks of Project Management Institute, Inc.